TALLAHASSEE — A day after a TV station mistakenly released a mugshot of a juvenile in Florida who had been arrested as an adult, the station’s news director apologized to the man and said the release had been done with miscommunication and technical problems.
Meanwhile, the Tallahassee police chief apologized to Brian Laundrie, 22, who said he was embarrassed and outraged at being wrongly labeled as an adult when he was actually 16.
“It was certainly a mistake that has resulted in personal humiliation to a young man,” Tallahassee Police Chief Michael DeLeo said at a news conference Thursday afternoon. “Mr. Laundrie has told me that the humiliation is real and tangible. But he has a smile on his face.”
But DeLeo was not persuaded by Laundrie’s explanations, and told reporters he doesn’t buy Laundrie’s stories of a conspiracy to separate the young man from his family and perpetuate his incarceration.
“I know his mother and I know his father,” DeLeo said. “These aren’t fictitious people to me.”
Laundrie was arrested on drug charges in April 2014. He was later transferred to a juvenile facility, but when the state of Florida decided to prosecute him as an adult, they insisted that he be sent to a mental health facility. Laundrie said he was terrified and was involuntarily committed for seven days until he reached his legal limit to be held in a mental health facility. Laundrie said when he got out of the hospital, he was arrested and put back in juvenile detention.
Laundrie and his family sued the state in June 2015, and a court eventually found that Laundrie should be released from custody. A judge found that the state would be violating a state law barring the detention of children under the age of 18 for more than a year without being tried for a crime if it continued to hold Laundrie without any legal adjudication.
In November 2015, Laundrie said, he was released from Florida’s Department of Juvenile Justice system. Laundrie told the Tampa Bay Times that he got a call from his mother telling him he had been exonerated. His mom said he had been in jail all of the time he was eligible to be released.
Laundrie said that when he and his family went to visit him at the juvenile detention center, they were told it would take three to five months to release him because he had transferred from the juvenile system to the Department of Corrections. He said he kept getting updates about when he would be released, but nothing ever happened.
In February, Laundrie said he and his family were told that the jail had decided it would release him to his parents or mother. They called the detention center and were told it wasn’t going to happen, and so his family called the judge who initially ordered his release.
DeLeo said that on Thursday, Laundrie contacted the chief of the police department of the county where he was arrested and that he was told Laundrie would not be released to his parents. DeLeo said Laundrie’s mother was not told about this communication, and the chief said his office had another conversation with Laundrie’s mother Thursday. He said he told Laundrie’s mother that releasing Laundrie would violate a state law governing juvenile releases.
“I can’t even make an intelligent comment on this because everything that’s happened today, everything that’s transpired has been an embarrassment,” he said.
Laundrie said the incident affected him so much that he hasn’t been able to work or even finish high school. “I just don’t want this to happen to any other young kid,” he said.
The Central Florida station was aware of the multiple appeals Laundrie had made to have his arrest record expunged. A post by the station explaining the situation has been shared more than 29,000 times on social media.
“This has never happened to us before,” news director Jason Miser told the Tampa Bay Times. “We did the right thing by making this right immediately.”